From Colombia to Switzerland – Cultural differences

From white beaches to mountains. From salsa to jodel. From fried empanadas to fondue.

Only recently I traveled from South America to Europe. More specifically, from Colombia to Switzerland. Culture shock hello!

After having had the chance of getting to know both countries a little more in depth there are different things and habits that I noticed about them and their people.

Zermatt Matterhorn

People

There was that guy at the airport who gave me a ride to downtown (well, on the way I had to pass at his doctor’s real quick with him). Or this other guy in another city, who accompanied me taking a bus from the airport to downtown, then walked me almost until my hotel, and ultimately returned to the bus stop to take the next bus. I have made a lot of nice experiences and encounters with very handsome people along the way in Colombia.

Generally speaking, Colombian people seem to be more open-hearted and caring towards others. They’ll invite you over to their house or take time to explain the direction to a location. Even if they don’t know. Actually, in certain parts it is considered as rude to say “no”. So many do not like to say „no“ or „I don’t know“. They pretend to know and give you any direction.

In Switzerland, on the other side, people are much more reserved and difficult to get to. It takes much longer to get closer to somebody. Only once you get to them, you are likely to have found a friend for life.

Cartagena, Colombia

Trash

One thing I noticed is the different behavior regarding trash. Swiss people are considered to be world champions in recycling. There is a specific trash can for different kind of trash – paper, bottles, batteries, PET, regular, etc.

Whereas in Colombia you find many places with trash anywhere on the streets (any kind of trash) you don’t see this in Switzerland. Except for one thing: cigarette butts. They are everywhere. Why? Why would someone carry an empty PET bottle for half an hour in order to put it to the correct trash can but throw the butts just on the ground?

Time

In Switzerland, if the schedule tells you that the train or the bus will pass at 11:07 it actually will pass at 11:07. At least most of the time. It the train is more than 3 minutes delayed they have to announce it as well as the reason for the delay. Everything and everybody is on time. To a certain degree it is nice to have a reliable public system. But it feels like people are also much more stressed out about the issue of time.

On the other hand, in Colombia everything is more relaxed. People seem to be more interested in others. They take more time to talk to each other – even if you don’t know them. In the bus, on the street, at the supermarket. The other day, for example, it happened to me that the bus driver just stopped in front of his house (I assume it was his house) disappeared for roughly 5 minutes and came back without saying anything. Imagine that happens in Europe..

Glacier Express

Organization

Everything seems to be way more organized in Switzerland than in Colombia. People know when and what is going to happen. For example, you can notice when people put their trash bags out on the street on one specific day during the week. In front of every house you will see at least one bag. It’s the day when the trash busters pass by and collect those bags.

You can also notice how well it’s organized in public instituions like hospitals or mail offices. Everybody gets his turn with only a reasonable time to wait for.

On the other hand it can happen that you wait an entire afternoon at the hospital just to get examined which can be quite annoying. If you have no connections, you are actually likely to end up doing so.

Climate

Last but not least, there is a big difference in climate. Obviously, due to its size there are different climate areas in Colombia. Some of them are a little colder, some of them are hot and humid. But in general, since Colombia is located close to the equator, the climate is very similar all year around in one place and much warmer on average. On the other side, seasons characterize the climate of Switzerland that is located in central Europe. Snow in winter, flourishing nature in spring, hot summer days, windy and colorful autumns – the temperatures vary hugely along the year.

Taganga, Colombia

Concluding, both are beautiful countries and home to breathtaking landscapes – each one with its upsides and downsides. But either one is definitely worth to visit.

Also check out 10 places to visit when traveling to Switzerland, 11 useful things before traveling to Colombia, 17 interesting facts about Colombia, and Colombian beauty – 12 photos of evidence.

What are your cultural experiences between different countries?

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